The curse of inflight wi-fi

I am writing this from somewhere up in the air, en route from LAX to JFK. When I’m flying without my small children, plane trips are a great chance to get stuff done. I can set a goal to write an op-ed during a flight and chances are I will finish it with no interruptions. (When I have small kids with me, this is a different story… don’t get me started on my horrible flight from Newark to Grand Rapids this summer. The only reason I survived is that a nice lady across from me took my baby for a while, after my newly potty-trained 3-year-old didn’t do well with a long tarmac delay. Nor did his seat).

Of course, one of the things that makes air travel so productive is that no one can reach you. No phone calls, no internet… until recently. Over the past few years, many airlines have started offering onboard wi-fi. Like the airline I am currently flying. I paid my sum and logged on, and here I am.

So here’s the question: is inflight wi-fi a good thing or a bad thing? On one hand, I’m able to blog and answer some pressing emails. On the other, it’s harder to spend 5 hours focused on writing an essay when the vast and distracting internet is calling. I can check headlines! Stocks! Comments on my favorite blogs! To be sure, I didn’t have to purchase internet access. But as it becomes widely available, people will no longer accept “I was traveling” as a reason you didn’t get back to them. I’m not sure this is a good thing.

4 thoughts on “The curse of inflight wi-fi

  1. Bad. Very bad. Flights are one of the last bastions of truly being unavailable for me. A 3 – 6 hour time period where I could be unreachable without excuse. Having that taken away would be horrible.

  2. Maybe this flight you will want to crunch on that essay, but maybe the next flight you will want to collaborate with someone on a presentation. Or perhaps .be. in the meeting while travelling to another destination.

    Like all gadgets, having in-flight wifi is only as good as the purposes for which its used.

    1. @Charles and @Kate – good points both. Inflight wi-fi allows us to work with other people… but sometimes we don’t want to be available to work with other people. Now cell phones on flights? That I would hate (I always sit in the quiet car on Amtrak so I don’t have to listen to people’s conversations).

  3. I took a flight (the key is to book direct flights)
    and just read a book and made a list of things that I need to do. I just sort of let my mind wander (kind of like meditation but less relaxing and then just focus back again — so it usually wanders to the most important projects — It was actually very effective (now I just need to find the list!) — which I just worked on without turning on the computer.
    Sometimes say on a long flight you can use that block of time to say clean out your inbox, but I find that having a list of what the heck I really want to be working on and that mental time to let my mind wander over to those things is very effective.
    Outside of a flight I find it very difficult to find that kind of uninterrupted time — maybe in the morning when the house/office is quiet… but I like to use that time for a good workout b/c it is when my body is fresh… Another strategy is to just plow through the stuff on one’s desk and keep a neat space – clean closets etc. so mental energy is more easily focused on the tasks that matter.. but this can also be a time waster… as you can easily get distracted by all the things in front of you and not the long-term projects.

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